77. Telegram 160165 From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1 2

[Page 1]


  • STATE 159015


  • Military Supply: Arms for Pakistan

Deliver: opening of business, September 30.

As you are aware (State 96504, June 18), the President decided, after prolonged and careful review, to make a limited cash sale of arms to Pakistan as a one-time exception to our military supply policy. This decision concluded our review of South Asian military supply policy. Our basic policy remains unchanged for the present, but we intend to keep open future policy options.
Pakistani leaders have repeatedly told us of their desire improve relations with US and their dislike of being excessively dependent upon Soviet Union and China for their arms supplies. This point was made to President Nixon during his visit to Lahore last year and has been repeated often to Ambassador Farland. In considering Pak requests, we have kept in mind Pakistan’s desire pursue a balanced [Page 2] “three-cornered” foreign policy, including good relations with US, and its difficulty in doing so if it is largely dependent upon China and Soviet Union for arms. We have also kept our relations with India very much in mind and the effects of any sale to Pakistan upon those relations. As indicated below, we have selected items for which Pakistan has real need, while avoiding sales of military items, such as tanks, which have special political-psychological significance for India and for balance of military power in South Asia. We do not believe that package as whole or individual items will in any significant way affect arms balance or contribute to arms race in South Asia.
There are several reasons for our decision proceed now. First is necessity to follow through with offer already communicated informally to President Yahya. Paks have been understandably concerned over long delay in completion of military supply review, and we do not wish risk further misunderstandings which might offset political benefit derived from sales offer. We are also concerned over possible misunderstanding with Indians if we permit GOI to proceed with efforts improve climate of relations with US while we [Page 3] delay informing GOI of our sales offer. In informing GOI we want to make clear that basic decision in principle was made some time ago, permitting Indians to note that decision preceded appointment Swaran Singh as FonMin and Indian initiatives improve relations, but was not implemented pending consultation with Congress. Finally, there are Congressional considerations. Senator Fulbright has pressed us to consult on reported sales offer to Pakistan and Department is on record as agreeing to inform Fulbright in case of significant third country sales.
Primary purpose of our discussions with Indians should be to assure them that our action not directed against India or designed to bring about military escalation in Subcontinent, and that India’s views have been fully taken into account. It is also our hope that presentation outlined below will make clear to Indians that we have resisted pressures for more basic change in policy and that pressures could build if Indians over-react. At same time we intend to exercise great care in not conveying information, which, if Indians leaked to press or used in Parliament, could undermine President’s desire to [Page 4] make meaningful gesture to Pakistan. Specifically, we do not intend reveal specific models or quantities of material being offered Pakistan and wish to avoid any publicity re two third country sales to India.
FYI: We hope Indians will contrast limited nature of what we will supply Pakistan with extensive Soviet and French commitments of offensive equipment, much of which remains to be delivered. According to our intelligence (details NOFORN), Soviets have delivered only 60 of 200 of T–54 and T–55 tanks and 60 of 112 130mm guns they agreed in 1968 provide Pakistan. We do not know what Soviets told Yahya in Moscow, but it appears GOI is accepting Soviet assurances about future commitments and turning blind eye to what has been and is yet to be supplied under 1968 agreement. We would hope GOI could take low-key attitude to our decision as it did to recent French sale of 30 supersonic Mirage 5’s to Pakistan END FYI.
Against this background, you should make following points to Acting Foreign Secretary. While we believe it inadvisable leave any written paper with GOI, all points should be conveyed to Indians. Under Secretary Johnson will make similar presentation here. [Page 5]
As GOI aware, arms embargo on direct US sale of lethal end-items to India and Pakistan has been in effect since 1965; since that time, USG has sold no lethal end-items to either country. However, in 1967 under third country provision of our arms policy US did approve sale to India by UK of 12 US-controlled Hawker Hunter to fighters and we have recently approved British sale to India of 12 US-controlled Canberras. These have been only third-country sales to either India or Pakistan approved by USG.
Asst. Secretary Sisco informed Ambassador Jha on June 23 that the USG had made certain judgments in principle on military supply for Pakistan but we wished discuss conclusions with Congressional leaders (State 099529, June 24). Secretary Rogers wrote to Swaran Singh August 6, that we had reached certain tentative conclusions regarding military supply policy and told FonMin Ambassador Keating would be discussing them with him (State 127322). Congressional consultations have been delayed because of other matters which we have discussed with Congress, such as Greek arms issue, on which consultations completed last week. However, Congressional leaders [Page 6] have been informed this week of our conclusions and, as we told Ambassador Jha and FonMin, we now wish inform GOI.
After prolonged and very careful review of our military supply policy, we have decided to offer to sell to Pakistan selective and limited supply of military equipment, which it has requested, as a one-time exception to our military supply policy.
This sale would not be in any sense a revival of previous US major supply relationship with Pakistan. Our basic policy remains unchanged.
Military equipment being offered to Pakistan consists of a few aircraft, largely replacements for previously supplied US aircraft, and some armored transport vehicles.
USG has not rpt not decided to sell tanks to Pakistan.
We are selling these items to Pakistan in recognition that each country has legitimate need to fill its perceived military defense requirements and, in case of Pakistan, that its indigenous defense production capability is limited. We wish to be responsive in a limited way to Pakistan’s need for replacement and other [Page 7] equipment so that Pakistan will not feel excessively dependent upon China and the Soviet Union for military items.
GOI should recognize that USG, in deciding upon this limited sale, has carefully taken into consideration views which have been expressed on this subject by GOI. What we have decided to sell to Pakistan will not significantly improve the capabilities of the Pakistani armed forces and, therefore, should not increase the security concerns of the GOI. Arms offer to Pakistan is consistent with our policy of (a) seeking to limit excessive diversion of resources from economic development to military purposes; and (b) seeking to prevent escalatory arms race.
We hope GOI will recognize that USG has resisted pressures for an overall revision of our arms supply policy or for a more substantial one-time sale. Because of this we hope GOI will not permit this limited one-time sale to have an adverse effect upon our relations, which we hope can continue to improve.
We will continue to consider Indian requests to purchase from third countries US-controlled arms in accordance with our [Page 8] military supply policy. FYI: While FMS bill, including Mansfield Amendment, does not now seem likely pass Congress, this type of amendment could be tacked on some other legislation and therefore at some later date affect this aspect of our policy END FYI.
This information is being passed to the GOI on strictly confidential basis. We believe it is in interest of both US and India to withhold publicity on this matter and consequently we plan no announcement. If press leaks should occur, we hope to consult with GOI regarding press handling. FYI: If you are consulted by GOI following any press leak, you should urge that official comment be limited to fact that USG has informed GOI of certain decisions which it has taken with respect to the sale of arms to Pakistan, that these discussions are confidential, and that USG has assured GOI that its views were fully taken into account in decision which has been reached END FYI.
If you are pressed by GOI on whether US action completes long-standing review of military supply policy, you should limit yourself [Page 9] to saying that this sale is one-time special exception to policy; basic policy remains unchanged, and you would not wish to speculate about future courses of action.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 12–5 PAK. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Quainton and Schneider on September 28; revised and cleared by Van Hollen; cleared by Spengler, Chapman, Deputy Assistant Secretary Colgate Prentice (H), Saunders, Colonel Gross (OSD/ISA), and Rear Admiral St. George (DOD/Joint Staff); and approved by U. Alexis Johnson. Repeated to Rawalpindi. The Embassy in Rawalpindi was instructed on September 29 to inform Pakistan about the details of the decision to offer a one-time exception to the existing restrictions on military supply. (Telegram 160449 to Rawalpindi; ibid.)
  2. The Embassy was instructed to inform the Indian Government that the U.S. intended to make a limited sale of arms to Pakistan as a one-time exception to the arms supply policy established in 1965.